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Northeast Ballet’s The Nutcracker

The Stahlbaum’s magical Christmas tree will have more room to grow this year, since its home on the stage of Proctor’s Theatre has stretched from 57 to 72 feet high.

Northeast Ballet Company’s Nutcracker, a winter perennial at the Schenectady theater, opens on Saturday. It’s the first fully staged show in the refitted house, which has been closed since last spring for Broadway-musical-friendly renovations. Now 115 feet wide by 60 feet deep, and with 86 automated line-sets, new lighting and sound systems, the theater is ready for fabulous special effects.

“The cast has grown from 110 people last year to 143 this year. We have an enlarged first act because of the new stage, and more humor. We have a flamboyant, tipsy butler. And, of course, we have Bonnie, the horse, who debuted last year. She’s sure-footed,” says Northeast Ballet’s artistic director, Darlene Myers.

Myers is excited about the new backdrop built by Adirondack Scenic of Argyle. “It has 10-foot-tall French doors that open. It’s out of this world,” she says.

New York City Ballet fans will be thrilled to hear that former principal dancer James Fayette (who retired last summer to become an exec with the dancers’ union) is coming back to dance the Snow duet with former NYCB dancer Deborah Wingert. The climactic duet of the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier will be danced by NYCB principals Jenifer Ringer and Philip Neal, who will surely revel in the expanded space.

The Nutcracker premiered in 1892 at the Maryinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, but it became an American staple only after George Balanchine introduced it to New York City audiences in 1954. Hundreds of cities and towns have added their own local color to the story of Clara’s dream journey to the Land of Sweets.

In Northeast’s production, journalist and nondancer Jeffrey Wilkin will add some new shtick to the British pantomime role of Mother Ginger. “This is his 7th or 8th year. He experiments every year,” says Myers.

Child dancers typically move up the ranks of Nutcracker, beginning as small mice or angels and progressing to the more difficult roles of flowers or snowflakes. Everyone aspires to be Clara, the girl who helps defeat the army of mice and then travels with her toy nutcracker, who has come to princely life.

This year, though, Myers has chosen three of the tiniest dancers to share the role of Clara. “I wanted sweetness this year. I think our country has lost its innocence. I wanted to bring that back to this family show. We need a little magic.”

Curtain times for Northeast Ballet Company’s Nutcracker are 2 and 7 PM on Saturday (Dec. 3), and 2 PM Sunday (Dec. 4) at Proctor’s Theatre (432 State St., Schenectady). Tickets are $27.75-$19.75 for adults, and $17.75-$9.75 for children. Call 346-6204 for more information.

—Mae G. Banner


Donovan gives great quotes. Remembering the change from the bleak postwar England of his childhood to the poptastic 1960s, the folk-rock troubadour recently told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “You might consider [it] to be a black-and-white world that burst into color in ’64.” That was when Donovan Leitch was transformed into just “Donovan,” and recorded a string of hits that embody the folk-pop side of psychedelia: “Mellow Yellow,” “Sunshine Superman,” “Hurdy Gurdy Man” and “Jennifer Juniper.” (Let’s not forget the hard-rocking “Season of the Witch,” either.)

Forty years later, Donovan is relaunching himself. He has just released Try for the Sun: The Journey of Donovan, a four-CD box set, and The Hurdy Gurdy Man, an autobiography. And he’s on tour, which will bring him to the Egg on Monday.

How does he reconcile this commercial blitz with his classic flower-power sentiments? No problem. Asked about licensing his songs for TV commercials, he told The Wall Street Journal, “I consider commercials not selling out, but selling in.” (That’s pretty droll for a hippie.)

Donovan will perform Monday (Dec. 5) at 7:30 PM at the Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany). Tickets are $28. For reservations and information, call 473-1845.

King Island Christmas

Here’s something new for the holidays, from the New York State Theatre Institute: King Island Christmas, a musical about getting a priest and winter provisions to a village of Inupiag Eskimos before the really bad weather closes in. Obviously, this is a place where there is no need to dream of a white Christmas.

The real event happened on King Island, which is in the middle of the Bering Sea, in 1951. A ship bringing the priest and supplies was unable to dock in the island’s port because of high seas; the musical tells the story of how the islanders banded together to overcome this adversity (and the weather) in time for Christmas. With a libretto by Deborah Brevoort and music by David Friedman, NYSTI promises a “simple, loving and joyful tale based on a true story of people who live not very far from the North Pole.” (I guess Santa was too busy with toy production or postwar elf labor problems to help.)

The New York State Theatre Institute will present King Island Christmas beginning tomorrow (Friday, Dec. 2) at the Schacht Fine Arts Center (Russell Sage College, Troy). The run will continue through Dec. 17. Tickets are $20-$10. For showtimes and reservations, call 274-3200.

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